Sip Scene: Wine Down in Oakland
Temescal Alley newcomer Prima Materia pours old-world wines in modern digs.
Tucked among the alleyways of Oakland’s trendy Temescal neighborhood, Prima Materia is a welcome addition to the small boutiques, specialty stores, and hipster cafés that have long attracted visitors.
Prima Materia owner and winemaker Pietro Buttitta quietly opened the doors to his winery’s first—and only—tasting room in late January, offering exceptional wines in a minimalist, intimate space next to artisanal jewelry shop Esqueleto. A former chef, wine educator, and sommelier with a passion for old-world vinos, Buttitta merges wine and history in his creations, showcasing uncommon grapes and their legacies in California and abroad. His sustainably farmed, 10-acre vineyard in Lake County’s rich Kelsey Bench American Viticultural Area is lined with rows of rare varietals such as refosco, aglianico, and sagrantino as well as more well-known grapes like cabernet franc, barbera, and grenache. He also practices ancient agricultural traditions and labor-intensive, hands-on winemaking methods to craft his small-batch vintages.
Visitors can taste the difference in the distinctive Prima Materia wines at the new Oakland tasting room—and even speak with Buttitta himself, who works behind the bar daily and giddily informs guests about each wine he pours. You may pick and choose from a rotating lineup divided into three categories (whites and rosés, light to medium reds, and heavier reds), but to get the full experience, try all 10 wines on the list for merely $15.
On our visit, the tasting menu featured a refreshing, supple rosé with notes of peach and cantaloupe; an aromatic sangiovese bursting with berry and cherry; a complex, savory nebbiolo with a hint of spice and earthy bite; and a bold aglianico with fascinating flavors of cola and vanilla that dance across your palate.
While Prima Materia only provides tastings for now, in the future, Buttitta plans to host themed classes that focus on wines from specific regions, so consumers can learn more about the different varietals. And as soon as he nails down the permitting, he will start offering a small food menu and monthly wine dinners.
But the Prima Materia tasting room is well worth visiting now. It’s one of the few spots left in the Bay Area where you can find unique, world-class vinos in a relaxed environment—and talk to the person who made them—so make sure you’re ahead of the buzz and don’t just stroll on by this gem.
482 49th St., Ste. B, Oakland, (510) 920-0327, prima-materia.com. Open Wed.–Sun.